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I still love to return to Washington each year for the First Lady’s Luncheon.

The luncheon is put on annually by the Congressional Club, made up of the spouses of the past and present members of Congress. It is bipartisan, and its purpose is to honor the First Lady of the United States.

So this week my two sisters, two of my daughters and one granddaughter attended this beautiful event — along with about 1,800 other women and a few men! The luncheon honors the First Lady, and raises money for some of her favorite charities.

The Congressional Club was started in 1908. Its original purpose was to provide a non-partisan social setting for building friendship among the spouses of Members of Congress. Today the club’s primary focus is fostering friendship through service in Washington, D.C. and working with charitable organizations across the country. In 1912, the Congressional Club held a breakfast, served at noon to honor First Lady Nellie Taft. The breakfast became a luncheon and has been attended by every First Lady since its inception. Tuesday was the 107th annual luncheon!

The luncheon started with beautiful music. First, “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band played. Then there was the Presentation of Colors by the U.S. Military District of Washington Joint Armed Forces Color Guard, followed by the National Anthem. Finally, Lee Greenwood sang God Bless the U.S.A.

This year the chairman of the luncheon was Jennifer Messer, from Indiana, so the theme was Hoosier Heartland. The tables were beautiful and fun — black and white check tablecloths like the starting flags at the Indy 500, with beautiful flower arrangements of assorted red flowers, and a lovely red pashmina tied around each chair. We were served Indiana Wurstsalat with German bologna and roasted corn and radish, along with braised short ribs with Indiana shoepeg and jalapeno corn pudding, and Aunt Mandy’s Indiana Sugar Cream Pie with coffee ice cream.

The highlight of the luncheon was First Lady Melania Trump. She was introduced by a beautiful video of her meeting with children all over the world — in classrooms, hospitals, care facilities, at home in the White House, and in communities worldwide. She told us about her Be Best initiative — her awareness program focused around the well-being of children. The program focuses on the social and emotional health of children; online safety, dedicated to raising awareness about the positive and safe online behaviors; and drug abuse, and how to protect our children from the effects of drug abuse while promoting resources and program for all who struggle with addiction.

After lunch we were treated to songs sung by Nicole C. Mullen and Michael W. Smith. Both were absolutely beautiful performances. Then the First Lady was presented a beautiful picture painted by Polly Jordan of Ohio. The artist worked with a photo taken at the White House Rose Garden on May 7, 2018, of Mrs. Trump with children when she introduced her Be Best program.

As Polly said, “As educators, mothers, grandmas, aunt, etc. we need to embrace the mission that is the First Lady’s Be Best program: Let us all encourage the younger and very impressionable generation to be kind. Each child needs to know they are special. No matter what love God has put in their heart, it is both special and unique. Work at it. Spend time with it. Nurture it. Do your best so you can be best!”

I was proud that the picture was painted by an Ohioan, and I do hope to meet Polly soon!

After the beautiful luncheon we headed back to Ohio, feeling enriched and renewed and inspired to help our children.

The corn pudding we ate reminded me a lot of the corn pudding that my Grandmother Hawkins always made for Easter dinner. Of course, corn represents both Indiana and Ohio! The recipe is easy to make and I make it for many of my buffet dinners. Next time, for fun, I may try trading one of the cans of cream style corn for shoe peg corn and adding some jalapeno peppers.

Grandma Hawkins’ Corn Pudding

2 (16-ounce) cans cream style corn

1 cup sour cream

1 (8 ounce) pkg. Jiffy corn muffin mix (not prepared)

½ cup milk

½ cup melted butter

2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 1 ½ quart casserole. Place all ingredients in large bowl and mix well.

Pour mixture into prepared casserole dish. Bake 50-60 minutes or until lightly brown and firm to touch. Serves 6-8. (Recipe can easily be multiplied).
First Lady’s Luncheon & Grandma’s Corn Pudding

By Fran DeWine

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